I imagine that most of us who end up overweight have a story about how we got here. This will be the first installment in my story.
Despite the diet pills the doctor prescribed me, I wasn’t really fat. I was in junior high, and my mother had dragged me to a diet doctor. She was worried about my weight. So, he prescribed a bunch of different pills (no idea what they were, but they weren’t amphetamines) and gave me a diet. I sat there in my dress, embarrassed beyond words. This was a very long time ago, but I still remember him saying, in an unctuous tone, something like “Well, you’ll like seeing those thighs get smaller don’t you?” I was indignant because he hadn’t examined me. He didn’t actually know how big my thighs were. In fact, I thought that they were just fine. My waist we could maybe talk about. But, the thighs were A-OK.
I guess, by then, I actually was starting to think of myself as fat. Like many of us, I’ve thought a lot about my journey to overweight and how I got here and how I’ve stayed here over the years. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I would have said that while I wasn’t exactly fat as a child, I was perhaps a little chubby. I would have said that I was never quite what you would call thin.
But, then my mother gave me some of my old childhood photos which I had scanned in. And, I was really surprised to see that for most of my childhood and adolescence I wasn’t actually chubby at all. In fact, I was pretty much normal. Even, at times, almost thin.
Like a lot of babies, particularly back then, I was chubby and cute.
But, most of the chubbiness went away as I got a little older. Just a few years later, I didn’t look like all that chubby any more:
In my memory, I think that I have always thought I had a big waist and was at least a little overweight. But, in reality, looking at my pictures, I really wasn’t. By the time I was in school, I looked unremarkable. Although, maybe part of that is the difference between my childhood and the greater amount of childhood obesity seen today. When I was child, overweight children were not that common. Almost everyone was what would be seen as thin in today’s world. I remember a girl that, at the time, I thought was really overweight. I always was thankful for her presence in my class, because it meant that I was never the last person picked for sides in P.E. But, I came across a class picture from elementary school awhile ago and I was surprised to see that while she was overweight, she didn’t look all that obese from today’s standards. If I go to any mall today, I will see many children far more obese than she was. And, there was a boy in my class that I think of as having been a little chunky. Again, when I looked at the class picture, he looked perfectly normal. So, maybe while I don’t think I was overweight as a child, maybe I wasn’t as thin as most kids.
Even as I grew a little older, my weight didn’t seem to go up. Even by the end of elementary school, my pictures don’t really show much cause for worry:
But, I remember that at some point I started worrying a bit about my waistline. Here I am when I was about 12 and in my first two piece bathing suit. I’m the girl on the right. Again, in reality, I don’t look all that bad.
See that little bit of tummy overhang? I remember thinking my stomach just wasn’t quite flat enough. I remember before I got the bathing suit, being excited that I was going to be getting a more mature two piece. And, I imagined that I would look good in it. But, once I got it I was always a little dissatisfied because my tummy just wasn’t totally flat. Still, at the same time, I see how I looked it wasn’t bad. And, at that time, my thighs were just fine. You can see daylight between them.
But, in this photo in the same bathing suit, taken from the side, my waist does look just a little thick. Still, in retrospect, it wasn’t as big as I remember it:
But, even then – thick waist or not – I didn’t really look overweight when I was dressed in regular clothes:
I was about 13 or so when my mother took me to that diet doctor. I don’t remember exactly when, except that it was when I was in junior high. I remember being surprised that my mom wanted me to go see this doctor. She doesn’t remember this at all, but I sure remember it. Sometimes things that were really traumatic to us as kids are hardly, if at all, remembered years later by our parents. My mom says that while she doesn’t remember taking me to the doctor, she remembers that she thought my arms were too big, as was my tummy area. I was embarrassed that she thought I was fat enough that I needed to go to a diet doctor. I had heard of diet pills and was a little nervous, but wondered if they worked. When we saw the doctor, he was clear that the pills weren’t amphetamines, but were some sort of something that he said would help me lose weight (I still have no idea what they were). While I was embarrassed to be put on a diet and I thought he was off base on my thighs, at the same time I sort of agreed that I was overweight.
On the one hand, looking at my picture, I don’t think that objectively I looked overweight. Despite what my mother said, I don’t remember my arms being big at all:
Even in a shorter dress with a more poufy skirt, I didn’t look overweight (and my arms still look OK to me):
On the other hand, I was even more embarrassed to be seen in a two piece bathing suit, as my tummy overhang was progressing. I’m not sure this suit ever made its way outside of my backyard:
My thighs weren’t huge in this picture, but there wasn’t separation between them either so maybe the diet doctor was right… So, although I was mortified about being hauled off to a diet doctor, I was a little excited by the idea that I might end up with a flat stomach. Alas, the pills and the diet didn’t do much for me. I think I went back to one follow up appointment and I hadn’t lost much weight. Looking back on it, I really don’t think I was all that overweight. I think I was probably over fat and I carried most of that fat in my abdomen. I know back then I was really weak and had no strength to speak of. In high school, I remember a physical education test where even the girls had to attempt chin ups. Most of the girls could do at least a few. I was one of the few girls that couldn’t do one at all. I couldn’t even begin one. I just hung there like a dead fish. So, I think that most of my overweight was really just me having precious few muscles and a disposition to deposit body fat in my abdomen. But, back then I had never heard of the idea of being normal weight but over fat. So, I just saw myself as being overweight.
Still, objectively speaking, when wearing clothes I really didn’t look overweight.
Here I am in early high school:
And, on my 17th birthday:
So, I wasn’t fat. But, then I would see a picture like this and look at my abdomen and see that it wasn’t flat and would think I needed to lose weight:
I don’t remember exactly how much I weighed when I graduated high school, but I think it was around 130 or 135 pounds or so.
At 16, I was about 5’3” and somewhere I grew a little more and eventually got to just almost 5’4”. Certainly, according to modern weight charts 130-135 pounds was a normal weight. I remember seeing the Metropolitan weight chart somewhere. I found this Metropolitan chart that says for 25-59 year old women, the weight for someone 5’5” in 1 inch heels (so actually 5’4”) with a medium frame was 127-141, but that includes 3 pounds for clothes, so really 124-138. So, by that standard I guess I was even then within a normal body weight. But I worried that I was maybe a small frame, which the chart says would have been 117-130 pounds, less 3 pounds for clothes, so actually 114-127, in which case I was overweight. But, if so, I was mildly overweight. And, in clothes, I didn’t look overweight. But, I would never wear a two piece bathing suit again. I remember occasionally trying one on at a store and looking at my tummy and quickly putting it back. It is kind of sad that while I looked normal weight in most of my regular clothes, in my mind at the time, I always thought I needed to lose 10 pounds or so. And, of course, there would come a time that needing to lose only 10 pounds would have made my ecstatic.
To be continued …..